A tradition in transition

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Liturgy: the illustrated history, by Keith F. Pecklers SJ (Paulist Press); True Reform: Liturgy and Ecclesiology in Sacrosanctum Concilium, by  Massimo Faggioli (Collegeville: Liturgical Press)

- Review by Hilmar Pabel

Keith Pecklers is an American Jesuit who teaches liturgy in Rome at the Pontifical Gregorian University and at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of Sant’Anselmo. He is probably best-known for Worship: a primer in Christian ritual (2003). Massimo Faggioli is an Italian theologian who teaches in the United States at the University of St Thomas in St Paul, Minnesota. His timely and vigorous analysis of contending interpretations in Vatican II: the battle for meaning (2012) has established him as an ardent advocate of the council and its teachings.

Read together, these very different new books offer helpful insights into the profound value of the Catholic liturgy. Faggioli insists: ‘Liturgy is not only about aesthetics’, for it is bound up, as Pecklers points out, with the Church’s mission, ‘Christian witness within the world’. As an instrument of that mission, liturgy must be universal, pay attention to context, render prophetic counter-cultural witness, and recognise cross-cultural ­diversity.

Aesthetics, however, remains a conspicuous element of worship. The lavish illustrations in Liturgy, chiefly displaying liturgical space and action, are an attractive feature. But while the illustrations are meant to supplement, not overwhelm, the history that proceeds around them, it would have been more helpful if Pecklers had integrated them more deliberately into his narrative. Pope John XXIII is nowhere in sight in the large photograph described in a caption as showing him announcing on 25 January 1959 his intention to summon an ecumenical council.

Pecklers’ Liturgy echoes the essential themes and, sometimes, specific passages from his earlier Worship. Its strong points are liturgical developments in the early Christian centuries and the modern era. Diversity, Pecklers rightly emphasises, characterises the ancient liturgies of East and West.

Vatican II called for a return to the ‘noble simplicity’ of the Roman rite: but by the tenth century that simplicity had given way to a dramatic and verbose complexity imported from the north to produce a hybrid of the Roman and Gallic liturgies. Ecumenism and the vernacular as a liturgical language – topics of expertise in other publications by Pecklers – emerge prominently in the story of the liturgical movement that found fruition in the reforms of Vatican II.

In the last 10 chapters, Pecklers becomes more prescriptive than descriptive. Moderation is his aim. His loyalty to the liturgical reform of Vatican II is obvious. But with its critics – those who demand a “reform of the reform” – he calls for a restoration of transcendence, which is compatible with the principle of “full, active and conscious liturgical participation”.

Translations of the liturgy in the vernacular need to produce “theologically and doctrinally sound texts”, but they must also be ecumenically sensitive and “contemporary”.

The increasing awareness, observed by Pecklers, of ‘the ecclesiological dimension of worship’, lies at the heart of Faggioli’s True Reform, whose title alludes to Yves Congar’s seminal True and False Reform in the Church. Faggioli writes with urgency in his vigorous defence of Sacrosanctum Concilium, Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

His book insists on two essential points: the fundamental ecclesiological value of the liturgical constitution and the danger to it in particular and to Vatican II in general of the ‘reform of the reform’. ..

Full review: http://www.thetablet.co.uk/issue/1000356/booksandart

Another blog review: http://doohan.id.au/2013/03/11/review-true-reform-liturgy-and-ecclesiology-in-sacrosanctum-concilium/

eBook: http://www.stanfordvatican2.net/readings/april-8-francis/faggiolichapt2.pdf

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Buy this book: http://johngarratt.com.au/index.php/affiliatelist?id=70&affiliateid=8

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